Take it from a native Antiguan who has had guests come down with grand plans of buying beautiful local gifts, only to be left disappointed by the cookie-cutter junk sold by most of the vendors. Thank goodness for Island Mantra, which opened in 2010. Below is a little ditty I wrote up on the tripadvisor forum for A&B and thought I might as well share it here
Browsing the main shopping drags in Saint John's will be somewhat disappointing to the discerning souvenir/gift shopper; most items are made in China or on another island (such as Haiti or Dominican Republic) and paraded as being locally made.
If you're looking for gifts, souvenirs, artwork, clothing, jewelry and accessories that are truly 'local', then you'll need to do a little work to find this little gem: Island Mantra.
Tucked away overlooking the hidden courtyard that is Cafe BamBula, you'll find this small but vibrant shop filled with a wide array of items handcrafted solely by local artist, Lyris Tracey.
From jewelry crafted out of found objects such as fan coral (sea fans) and recycled leather to hand-dyed and painted silk sarongs, Lyris is constantly producing new work ranging from innovative and quirky to downright breathtaking. Traditionally a fabric artist working with mixed media and featured in many local art exhibits, Lyris is now known for her attention-getting jewelry and accessories along with large wall pieces made from locally sourced, found materials such as palm bracts and date palm branches.
Each item in the store is one-of-a-kind of limited edition, so you'll be sure that no one else has one exactly the same as yours.
Gift/souvenir items include individually painted bookmarks, paperweights, magnets, notecards, doorstoppers, birdfeeders, onesies, adult and children's T-shirts, totebags, beach bags, lunch bags and so much more. you really have to check it out.
Lyris also does a lot of home decor and functional artwork, including table linens, placemats, napkins, coasters, birdfeeders/houses, napkin holders, curtains, sheets, pillowcases, mugs, etc.
Prices range from USD$2 to USD$500. There's something for everyone's budget - You can pick up a great gift for $5 to $25 USD. Custom work and international shipping is available.
The unique mix of 100% handmade items is one not to be missed. Stop buying the same junk you get on every other island that just has a sticker saying "Antigua" on it. Help support our local economy and artists by buying locally-produced goods.
Get a feel for what you'll find at the shop by visiting and joining the group and fan pages on facebook and by browsing her etsy shop:
http://www.facebook.com/islandmantra#!/ ... 2724055868
Hours vary weekly as she works at home in her studio and runs the shop herself, so call for hours or to schedule an appointment.
Lower High Street, next to RBTT in St. John's, Antigua. The entrance to Cafe Bambula's courtyard is just next to the bank's ATM. Enter there and follow the passageway. Island Mantra is upstairs, overlooking the cafe.
PS: Cafe BamBula is a quiet, cool little lunch spot, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Chef Daphne of Belgium has wonderful daily dishes and is renowned for her seafood boullabaisse. Open 10am-2:30pm daily for lunch (http://www.facebook.com/?sk=2361831622# ... 8654423936)